Yoga brings me Joy

bow pose with strap
My Yoga story started back at university when a friend pleaded with me to tag along with her to a yoga class. I sighed and said OK, even though at that point of my life I just wanted to loaf on the sofa and eat Nachos. The yoga class itself was pretty standard and had no particular style and I really enjoyed it, but not enough to stick at it.
During the last 6 months of my Fine Art degree, I was building a room installation and creating a video performance to be projected into the room. The video performance was a fusion between a dream I had, research of ancient Hindu temple dancing and my alter-ego. During my studies of ancient dance forms (because I am also a belly dancer and wanted to create Art around ancient dance) I discovered that these particular dance styles like Odissi and Kathak were interconnected with Yoga, there is even a status of Shiva as Nataraja (meaning Lord of the Dance) and this particular statue can be found in Yoga studios; also a very beautiful and popular yoga pose is named after him and is called Natarajasana “Dancer’s Pose”. It was at this point in my life I learned that ancient temple dancing (of which Belly Dance evolved from) also had similarities to Yoga and by chance I met a woman who was in the midst of her Yoga teacher training and needed guinea pigs to teach sequences to for free which I thought would be great training to help my body look like a graceful, moving temple dancer. Through this woman I attended a weekly practice of Ashtanga in her home alongside the beginnings of my studies in Yoga Philosophy, more in-depth knowledge in the Chakras and Mudras (which are also used in classical Indian dance).

Coming to Plymouth to live with my partner (since we had been long distance for a year and a half), I had no money, no friends, no job, nothing but my degree certificate and plentiful ideas of where my life was to go. But my ideas didn’t go according to plan and even though I found work just to have some money to support myself, it wasn’t where I thought I’d end up and I became lost and very lonely. It was then I discovered the yoga loft, my teacher (in the photo) was offering community classes (essentially a donation based, pay what you can or it’s free). Which was a saving grace for me, it helped me get out of the house, socialize in a quiet room and continue to develop my yoga practice, then I’d go home and read a yoga book and spend my afternoon doing some belly dance practice.

That was four years ago. I remember I had a phone conversation with my mum during my time of struggle, it was very hard for me to open up to her but I did it. I remember telling her that it feels like I’m hitting my head against a brick wall whilst at the same time keeping my head above water so I don’t drown in my sadness. The reality that regardless of my skills and knowledge in mental health, psychological trauma, art as therapy and the community arts, nobody wanted me. As an outsider looking in, I realized that Plymouth is a city with small town mindedness, the people here are very cliquey and prefer to hire those they know, why hire a girl from the North “when my friend Jane has a daughter who can be an assistant care worker”, right? I’m not judging that mindset but it did cause a lot of issues for me to even make friends, let alone find work suited to my skill-set, so I’ve been working my butt off in a part time retail job to help fund my yoga classes, continuing professional development and travels for the past few years.

I told my mum “It feels like the universe is putting obstacles in my way to nudge me in a different direction, every door just closes on me as if to say ‘No this is not for you’ and I feel in my heart I want to teach belly dance and yoga, I know it sounds crazy and I know you may think it’s not a practical way of living but it feels right, I’ve tried so hard to be ‘Normal’ and it’s not working.” I was expecting my mum to tell me to grow up and be practical, that the world is a harsh place and to just stay in my retail job so that maybe I’ll be a manager one day. But she didn’t, her exact words were “Kate, I don’t ever want to see you end up like me, don’t waste your life in retail and I think your idea to be a belly dance and yoga teacher is a brilliant idea.” She wasn’t judging retail as a career path, it’s a perfectly decent job but this conversation was showing that my mum was beginning to see who her daughter really is.
I remember gasping for breath whilst at the same time sighing with relief, for the first time my mum fully understood and supported me and from that day on I began to work hard towards who I am becoming today.

I’ve spent almost over 4 years practicing yoga and learning so much about it, I’ve continued my studies in Belly Dance and performed on numerous stages around the UK. I’ve gained knowledge in Anatomy & Physiology, Nutrition, mental health, dance leadership, dance therapeutics, yoga philosophy and much more. Both Yoga and Belly Dance bring me so much joy and looking back, even as a child I always loved moving, I’d copy dance choreography from MTV because my Mum couldn’t afford to put me through dance school or gymnastics.

Yoga became my friend, it was the missing piece in my heart and now sits in the chambers next to belly dance. I’ve also recently had some lovely feedback from some cheery older women telling me my physical practice is beautiful and that I am really good at it. Obviously there is more to yoga than making it look pretty and I am far from being advanced but the compliments made me realize I’m no longer the awkward and stiff beginner and that has given me confidence to keep practicing and one day be a teacher.

Because I am so interested in all things holistic I want to combine the yoga with creative movement, belly dance, Reiki and much more. As a budding Pagan Priestess I want to create beautiful sacred feminine circles as well to encourage a sense of healing and love and as qualified kids yoga teacher, again the whole vibe will be holistic and include therapeutic yet playful art into the mix. I want to facilitate workshops for the homeless, refugees and those suffering with mental health issues so I have big plans and it’s so interesting to look back on where I was (and who I was) then to who I am now. I’m still the same person but I have so much more clarity and a bit more sass in regards to fighting for what I want and I think the combined energy of yoga and belly dance had given me the courage to realize my potential, to know I can manifest anything I want if I work hard for it. To see the physical changes in my body helps me see that if my body can change, then so can my life. Both Yoga and Belly dance keeps me aligned and true to myself which is why I’ve been as stubborn as an Ox when people have attempted to change me and my mind, I will not give up the two things in my life that have been constant and consistent forms of unconditional love I have given to myself. So I’m sticking with my gut feeling, my heart vessel is full to the brim with joy and I’m aiming true.

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